The following remarks delivered at a press conference today by the Minister of Health the Hon. Kim Wilson JP MP and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Cheryl Peek-Ball regarding Wednesday’s arrival of the Anthem of the Seas cruise liner.
I am holding this press conference today to hopefully alleviate concerns some persons may have regarding Wednesday’s arrival of the Anthem of the Seas cruise liner.
Let me begin by saying that protecting the health of Bermuda’s residents is the Ministry of Health’s top priority. We would never take any action that could put the health of our community at risk.
Therefore, let me say this unequivocally: There are no passengers or crew on the Anthem of the Seas who are suspected of having the Coronavirus. The ship does not pose any risk different from any vessel arriving to Bermuda at any other time.
The New Jersey Health Authority and the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have confirmed that the results were negative for the novel coronavirus among four passengers who were tested and were aboard the Anthem of The Seas on a previous sailing.
To be clear, clearance by US health authorities confirms there are no suspected cases of Coronavirus aboard the Anthem of The Seas.
The health of the passengers and crew aboard this cruise ship has been carefully and actively monitored and a ‘Declaration of Health’ form will be sent to the Department of Health and reviewed by the Port Health Programme.
To further ensure the safety of Bermuda, as is always the case, health and port authorities will continue to apply careful control protocols at all of Bermuda’s points of entry.
Before I hand over to the Chief Medical Officer, I want to make it clear that the decision to reroute to Bermuda was made by the cruise line in order to provide a better experience for those passengers whose cruising time was shortened due to a late departure. This was simply a logistical decision taken by the cruise line and rumours to the contrary should be ignored.
Again please let me reiterate, protecting the health of Bermuda’s residents is the Government’s top priority. This includes taking steps, steps which are internationally accepted, in better ensuring protection of the public from serious health risks including the novel coronavirus.
CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER
I want to reassure the public that the Ministry of Health is working closely with stakeholders from different disciplines and sectors of society to plan and prepare for the global risk presented by coronavirus. This work includes very close collaboration with the Department of Customs, Department of Immigration, Skyport and Cedar Aviation to enhance screening of arriving travellers and direct those with a travel history risk for further monitoring and assessment.
Specifically, arriving travellers will undergo a travel risk assessment and could have their health monitored and movement on island restricted for up to 14 days. Those who have spent time in jurisdictions considered at very high risk will be given health instructions for follow-up and monitoring for 14 days.
The public should know that there are officers at all ports of entry to assist with managing the situation and port officials are in continuous communication with the Ministry of Health's Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (ESU). Additionally, Bermuda’s routine public health surveillance activities have been increased over recent weeks through the well-established collaborations between the ESU and the hospital, physician offices and other health stakeholders. Enhanced monitoring of patients presenting with respiratory illnesses will continue, guided by recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), and our regional authorities, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).
Furthermore, the Bermuda Government has put a restriction on direct flights from China which applies to private/corporate aircrafts. Additionally, any visitors that have spent any time in mainland China in the last 14 days are discouraged from traveling to Bermuda and will be subject to risk assessment and necessary monitoring and restrictions. Likewise, travel to mainland China by our residents should be avoided at this time due to the risk of the novel coronavirus. Residents returning from mainland China will undergo a travel risk assessment and may be subject to movement restriction and health monitoring for up to 14 days.
The Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit and Health Officers assisting in the prevention and control activities for novel coronavirus are utilizing the guidance from the CDC for conducting risk assessments on travellers.
I can confirm that there are no cases or known suspect cases of the coronavirus in Bermuda. To be classified as a "suspect case", the World Health Organization (WHO) has defined specific criteria that an individual must have. This includes a relevant travel history risk or contact risk. It should be noted that the situation is extremely dynamic so the Ministry of Health is in continuous liaison with international public health agencies to address the evolving situation.
It is critical for the public to turn their attention only to the established, trusted sources of health information. The Bermuda Government website and Government 'Treefrog' App, as well as its Facebook and Twitter pages are the official sources of Ministry of Health information. These will be updated continuously as information is received and confirmed.
If a case of coronavirus is confirmed in Bermuda, contact tracing will begin immediately and relevant individuals will be contacted by Ministry of Health staff. Any situation posing a risk to the safety of the general public will be communicated through official Ministry of Health channels.
All local health updates can be found at: www.gov.bm/health-data-and-monitoring. And the WHO website is a trusted source of up to the moment global information.
I urge the public to rely on official sources of information to prevent to prevent damaging rumours from creating false narratives and diverting public health resources away from situations posing an actual threat.